So far we have looked at an important system of energy circulation within our bodies and how this conserves the energy. This is not a completely closed system though. The energy around us can have a great influence on us in both good and bad ways. With practice and skill we can make positive use of this environmental energy.
Some environmental energies that you may see used in qigong practices include: the sun and moon, trees and forests, lakes and rivers, mountains and factors in your everyday environment. We will look at each of these briefly in turn.
The Sun and Moon
The sun, moon and stars all provide a range of important energies that combine to create distinctive characteristics. Most obvious of these is light, the sun provides intense and warm light while the moon and stars provide much paler and cooler light. They also both provide powerful gravitational energy, the moon more obviously (creating the tides) and the sun less so. These energies correlate with the concept of yin and yang energy, yang energy being hotter and lighter, yin being darker and heavier (more gravitational). In your own body, practicing in daylight in the presence of the sun’s energy will help to build yang, and practicing at night when the moon is strong or full will help to build yin energy.
Some qigong practices also make use of specific times of day and the changing of energies, in particular sunrise when yang is building, midday when yang is at its peak, sunset when yang is declining and midnight when yin is at its peak. Facing in different directions in relation to these heavenly bodies is also used. Exposing our retina to different types of light can have a significant effect on the hormone levels in our bodies, and whether we have the warmth of the sun on our back or our face will affect the way that energy is absorbed and circulated in our bodies.
Trees and Forests
Trees emit gases, particularly oxygen (they are sometimes referred to as the planet’s lungs, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis) and also many volatile natural substances which pervade the atmosphere in a forest. In addition to this, trees as living things move energy around inside themselves, this creates their own unique type of energy field. Studies have shown that simple spending time in a forest can improve mental state, reduce stress and increase immune function, these effects and others can be amplified by practicing qigong with an awareness of the forest’s energy.
Lakes and Rivers
Bodies of water are great conductors and reservoirs of heat, so they have a heating and cooling effect on the area around them. This combined with any movement in the water affects the air currents around them, sea breezes on a large scale, smaller micro currents on a smaller scale. In addition to this droplet shear, when water droplets break into smaller droplets, create negative ions in the atmosphere. These factors and others combine to create a distinctive type of qi energy that can be utilized as a significant factor in qigong practice
Mountains sometimes have localized magnetic properties which affect the energy field in the surrounding area. Mountains also affect the flow of air as the normal currents come into contact with them, causing up and down drafts, and condensation and rain. The quality of the air also changes at different altitudes. These are important factors in shaping the nature of mountain energy.
Factors in Your Everyday Environment
As well as the energies we find in nature, the energies we find in our everyday environment can have significant effects on our qigong practice. Energy such as the electromagnetic fields given off by household electronics and appliances, fumes from paint and furnishing, accumulated dust and so on that we find in indoor areas can have negative effects. Often the way to improve these energies is by reintroducing natural influences such as potted plants and flowers, opening windows for natural breeze and air circulation, water features for droplet shear and negative ions.
Alongside the tangible energies that each of the environmental factors we have looked at has, are also psychological effects. A mountain creates a sense of solidity and strength, a lake will create a sense of calm and still while a river will create a sense of activity and movement, a cluttered room will create a sense of confusion while an empty or well organized one will create a sense of clarity, etc. These psychological effects correlate well with what happens to the actual energy in these environments, but we can also benefit from the psychology of these environments without actually being there. Sometimes this is done by using a picture of the desired environment or just using mental imagery.
The advanced study and use of all these factors is known as Feng Shui.
Week Seven Homework:
- This week’s homework is to try practicing your qigong in different environments and see how it affects the energy you perceive during your practice. Remember to take notes of your experience to help distil and clarify your thoughts and what you notice.
- You can try practicing at different times of day, sunrise, sunset, midday, midnight, or even just during daylight and when its dark.
- Try practicing facing the sun, and try practicing with your back towards the sun.
- You can try practicing amongst some trees in a forest or maybe a park.
- Try practicing, near the sea, near a lake, near a river or stream
- Try practicing up a mountain or hill
- Try practicing in a cluttered or busy environment (maybe an office?)
- You probably won’t practice in all these different environments in a week, but try as many as you can and see what differences you notice.